3 Benefits of Planning (and why I love my Plum Paper Planners)

benefits of planning | planning 2017 | planners for moms | plum paper planner review

Life doesn’t always happen the way we plan it. And yet, there is something so comforting about having a plan. I love planning and planners, the old-fashioned paper planners,  especially my Plum Paper Planners (see my review and a coupon code at the end of this post). And in spite of the fact that plans change, I’ve found a number of benefits to planning. Here are my top 3.

3 Benefits of Planning

Planning to Create Order Out of Chaos

Just like some people vacuum obsessively so that they can see the nice neat lines in their carpet, and some people just can’t think until their kitchen is clean, I love a nice orderly list of check boxes—the chaos of my life neatly arranged into categories and days of the week and orderly lists. The rest of my life may be in total disarray, but I’m good with that as long as my planner is neat and orderly. So what does that mean? Well, it means I must have no empty boxes at the end of the day. If I decided something did not need to be done, I put an X through the box. If I still need to do it, I put an arrow through the box and write the task into the next day. And if it’s done—CHECK IT OFF!

Planning to Remember

I’ve learned that the physical act of writing helps me to remember things in ways that the iPhone just can’t. No number of reminders and alerts will do for me what checking off a little box in a planner can do. I’m much more likely to remember an event I write into my planner than an event I enter into Google Calendar. Though I use Google Calendar, mainly to sync my husband’s appointments with mine, I have to write events into my planner if they are going to happen.

I also use my planner to remember what has already happened, a special afternoon with a friend, a fun memory, blessings of the day (1,000 gifts Ann Voscamp style), etc. In this way, my planner also becomes my journal or scrapbook, recording the events and memories and special notes of the year.

Planning for Perspective

Planning gives me perspective. I totally write in tasks I’ve already finished so that I can check it off. It helps me combat the feeling that I didn’t get anything done. Most days, I got a lot done, even if it wasn’t what I’d planned. Sometimes “rest” is on my planner. It’s something I need to do, and yet something that I often feel as though I can’t do (because I’m not getting anything done when I rest). I combat that with the power of the little check box. It helps me remember that I am still doing something important when I take the time to recoup. Then there are those days when, honestly, I didn’t do anything but parent. I write that in, too! I parented. I homeschooled. And maybe that’s all I got done. But that alone is doing quite a bit.

What I use (a Plum Paper Planner review)

For the last three years, I’ve used (and loved) Plum Paper Planners. They are cheaper than Erin Condren or Inkwell, comparable to the Happy Planner but with lots of customization options. With a variety of layout options, add-on sections, and cover options, I can customize everything about this planner, making it exactly what I need. In fact, you can choose any start month and add extra months if you want to use it for longer than 12 months. I’ve used Plum Paper Planners to plan my daily life, my homeschool lesson plans, and even to journal our food journey (tracking everything everyone eats and daily symptoms and behaviors). They are perfect for just about everything. Plus, the paper is amazing!

benefits of planning | planning 2017 | planners for moms | plum paper planner

You can create your own cover, choosing from a range of colors, patterns, and designs; and you can personalize it with exactly what you want your cover to say. You can choose from a variety of add-ons: notes pages, to-do lists, checklists, budget planner, meal planner, fitness planner, etc. Lots of options! You can also choose from at least 6 different layout options, vertical and horizontal. My favorite is the ME option, which allows you to customize your own headings in your planner. {My personal planner is labeled Events, Projects, Tasks (plus 3 blank sections), and Blessings. My homeschool planner is labeled Reading, Tapestry (for our Tapestry of Grace material), Assignments, Meeting Times, Notes, and a couple of blank sections.} Not to mention, they are beautiful!

plum paper planner coupon code | planner review | planners for moms | homeschool planner

And as a special thank you to my blog followers, Plum Paper has provided a special 10% off coupon code for you all, good through March 31! Just visit their website and at checkout enter the code GRACE10 for your 10% off.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

I don’t always get to complete my well-laid plans: the unexpected happens in my life on a regular basis, and disorder is a constant, it seems. But the benefits of planning extend beyond the chaos that life can bring. At the very least, planning brings order and beauty to one small space in the messy disorder of my life. And I can live with that.

Take a look at specifically how I plan our homeschool: 5 Steps to Traditional Lesson Planning & Loop Planning with File Folders.

2016 Fifth Grade Curriculum

fifth grade homeschool curriculum | classical dialecticI’m flabbergasted that I’m teaching fifth grade this year. Fifth! When did this happen?

As sad as I am to see all the little boyishness disappear, I do love to see who he is becoming—the thoughtful questions he asks, the deep discussions he initiates, the connections he makes. It is rewarding to see him grow.

It’s just one more reason that this year is so exciting. My son is starting his second rotation through history, finishing the grammar stage of learning and edging into dialectic. This year for fifth grade, he will be comparing civilizations and contrasting mythology with the Bible. My husband’s post-graduate degree in apologetics is coming in handy to answer all of his deep questions, as well. So here’s what’s in store for fifth grade.

Core resources:

Extras:

I still keep his assignments mostly 10 to 15 minutes, with math taking slightly longer at about 20 minutes, which means he can still finish his independent assignments in a couple of hours. He meets with me for about a half hour 3-4 days a week, and then 1-2 days a week we all come together for a couple of hours of history read-alouds and projects. He’s also grading his own daily work this year, which means I only grade tests and quizzes. It’s a schedule that gives us a lot of variety without draining their enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, I think the variety feeds our enthusiasm.

 Check out our curriculum for 3rd grade and preschool, too.

2016 Third Grade Curriculum

3rd grade homeschool curriculum | homeschooling dyslexiaI’m excited for this year for so many reasons, but I’m especially excited for Middlest’s third grade year. We’ve had some major discoveries and improvements with diet/behavior over the last year and were beginning to see the fruits of that at the tale-end of second grade. I’m also eager to see her dyslexia improve with some of the curriculum changes and adjustments we’ve made. In one sense, I can’t wait to see what she is capable of now that her body is healthy and functioning well and all the pieces are in place. Here’s what’s in store for Middlest for the third grade.

Core resources:

Extras:

Middlest was only a toddler the last time we studied Ancient History. Even so, she remembers many of her favorite book titles from that study and several of our projects. That’s one of my favorite aspects of Tapestry of Grace specifically and whole-family learning in general. She is excited about getting to read her favorites on her own this time, to her little brother. I’m excited about seeing her understanding deepen this time around with new books and projects.

Writing and spelling related activities are ones that I help her with quite a bit, partly because of her difficulties with these and partly because of the anxiety her dyslexia causes her. This topic could probably be a post of it’s own, but I’ll keep it short. At this stage, I frequently allow her to “write” orally while I act as her scribe. Sometimes, she will use these narrations as copywork, copying her own words that I wrote down (with all correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation). Other times, I will use a sentence or so as dictation, having her copy down her own words as I read them back to her. Later this year, we will be working toward the writing “process” of having her write her own thoughts with all their imperfections and then editing it together before she writes or types the final copy.

I’m loving this set-up for her third grade year. It feels like the perfect fit, and I can’t wait to watch her thrive.

Check out our curriculum for preschool and 5th grade, too.

Preparing Tapestry: our Fourth Year

We are headed into our fourth year of our Tapestry of Grace curriculum, which means we will have completed the cycle at the end of this year. (It also means this is my last year of all grammar level.) Last year, I felt like we really made Tapestry our own and found our rhythm, our stride. It felt good, like a fitted glove. Of course, when you end a year like that, it makes planning the next year exciting. I love the aspect of homeschooling where I trouble-shoot and research and find our answers, but the Lord knew I would be doing that in several other areas of our life; so homeschooling was off the hook. No massive revamping this year. With that said, preparing Tapestry for this year went really smoothly.

In summary, I love manilla folders. I keep 36 folders for our weekly “must-do” assignments like language and math and Latin. Then I keep a second set of folders for Tapestry that are labeled by Term (we do three 12 week terms) and by topic (I don’t cover everything; instead, I select the events and topics that will best suit my learners). All of our reading lists, media lists, and project papers are printed off and filed in these topic folders.

So here’s what it looks like. At the beginning of a week, I pull out two folders: the week we are in and the topic we are studying. Within the weekly folder, I pull out assignment pages and file into the kids’ daily pockets inside their binders (we use case-it binders with the accordion file inside). Within the topic folder, I look at my list all of the books and projects assigned for that topic and the number of weeks that I’ve guessed it will take us to complete (i.e. Titanic, 2 weeks). I then allocate those assignments that will fit with our week’s schedule. Last year, this method cut my weekly prep to about 30 to 45 minutes total! Both kids filed and ready to go in around a half hour. It was beautiful.

Reading Lists

Tapestry’s reading lists are copyrighted, so I can’t share the specific book titles that we are using. However, I will list a couple of other resources I use to compare and substitute book titles. SimplyCharlotteMason.com has a book finder feature that I love. Just type in the event or person you are studying, the reading level of your students, and a great list of engaging living books is listed for you. My second resource is my local library online catalogue search feature. Again, I type in the event or person, narrow it to children’s resources, and voila! I love my local library. It has an enormous selection.

I also use SimplyCharlotteMason’s Story of America and Story of the Nations ebooks as my core. These are not Tapestry titles, but the table of contents make it very easy to assign chapters that fit what we are covering. And the books are very engaging. We love them.

I select my favorites. Depending on how long we intend to study a topic, for each week I will select one to two read-aloud titles, one to two independent reading titles per child (depending on the length of the book), and the rest will be assigned merely as reference, as in “let’s look at more pictures.”

Media List

I love audios. Awhile back I scored Diana Waring’s history audio from Answers in Genesis‘ history program. We love listening to these on the way back and forth to karate and co-op. So, on the days we don’t get to our reading, we are still getting to our history. And this is another very engaging resource.

Netflix is also a resource where I search for related films to what we are studying. We don’t always get to this, but it is great for those off-days or sick days to already have this list compiled.

Projects

Homeschool in the Woods is not a Tapestry resource either, but we LOVE these projects. I use the Time Traveler activities. We make notebooking pages using both the notebooking and lapbooking project ideas. Especially since my kids are finally old enough to do their own cutting and pasting, these have been really fun activities to assign. They work on these while I read-aloud. It keeps their fingers busy but doesn’t distract them from the reading.

I generally choose the projects that fit what we are studying, our time-frame, and my kids’ interests. I spend one long afternoon printing all of my chosen activities and filing into my topic folders. This saves me so much time during the school year.

I also have the Draw Through History titles. My son loves to draw; my daughter loves to trace. And it gives them some ideas for drawing and enhancing their notebook with images of what we are studying.

Our Rhythm

I mentioned that I note about how many weeks I think a topic will take us. Last year, this was very fluid. We moved on when our books were read and our projects were done. And I found that in the end, things balanced out. Some topics took longer than I estimated, and some topics didn’t take as long. If we read everything in a week, we moved on. If it took us five weeks, because of interest or illness, we took our time and enjoyed it all. Sometimes, it was just a dud, and rather than struggle through 3 more weeks of something we were not enjoying, we covered the basics and moved on.

I’m also sensitive to my kids’ reading interests. There were some books that my son just hated, and while I realize that not all learning can be interest-driven, I think at the younger levels, reading should be. Occasionally, I’d make a call that he just needed to get through a book. But if I made that call, I ensured that I had a very tantalizing book as a reward when he finished. There were books we didn’t read cover-to-cover. (Pause for you to gasp in horror.) We survived, and were no worse for that decision.

In spite of all that flexibility, I was amazed by how much my kids retained and learned. A little went a really long way.

What about discipline and teaching kids to push through the difficult stuff? I split my subjects into two categories: our discipline subjects like math, grammar, spelling; and our inspiration subjects like history, science, and reading. This helped me define my objectives. My discipline subjects were challenging but in short spurts (no more than 15-20 min. per lesson/subject). My inspiration subjects were kept inspiring and interesting and often took closer to an hour or hour and a half (hands-on projects take awhile). But again, I watched my kiddos. If they were engaged, we took our time. If their eyes were glossing over, it was time for lunch.

Want to know more specifics? I’ve listed our specific curriculum choices here. Feel free to browse those links. Not sure what your homeschool style is? Be encouraged with my post about losing the labels.

I’m looking forward to another really great homeschool adventure, and I hope you tag along on our journey.

Next Year Plans 2015-2016

Homeschool Curriculum Planning | homeschool plans

I must confess, planning for this next school year’s homeschool curriculum was much less difficult than it has been in the past. We had so much success this year that I had little to research and change. And while it was very nice to have those decisions pretty well made, I kind of missed the search-and-find part of the process. I’m thrilled that we’ve found the pieces that fit just right for us. It’s been a great fit this year, a perfect balance. So, here is our master list for next year’s plans, our homeschool curriculum in 2015-2016 (4th grade, 2nd grade, and preschool).

Plans for Grade 4:

Christian Light Publications Grade 4 Math

Alpha Omega Grade 4 Language Arts

Easy Grammar/Daily Grams 4

Spelling Power, 1st edition

Visual Latin 1 (second half)

Legends and Leagues geography (North, South, East—one for each school term)

My State Notebook, A Beka

Tapestry of Grace year 4, Upper Grammar (with Draw through History and Time Travelers Pak activities)

Plans for Grade 2:

Christian Light Publication Grade 2 Math

Logic of English Foundations D

Legends and Leagues (original book and workbook)

Tapestry of Grace Year 4, Lower Grammar (with Draw through History and Time Traveler Pak activities)

We’ll also be studying Norman Rockwell and Kandinsky for art, as well as jazz and Louis Armstrong for music.

Plans for “Preschool”  (3 year old)

Nothing heavy here, trust me. But I have to plan something to keep Little Man out of trouble. And he loves “plojects.” Honestly, I’m aiming for exploration. And while I don’t have anything finalized, I expect to use a lot of Pinterest ideas, some resources from Letter of the Week (COAH), and some inspiration from The Homegrown Preschooler. I also want to implement a lot of Montessori activities with him.

Tot School | homeschool plans

Littlest is such a sponge. He does a lot of counting, can recognize a few different letters, and knows his colors pretty well with absolutely no formal instruction from me. He’s too little to have a learning style just yet, but he clearly loves to explore rather than pursue anything structured. I’m really okay with that for now. I love setting out the supplies and letting him explore them on his own.

We do have a “summer school” schedule that I’ll post more details about soon. And I can’t wait to get into that learning mode. In the meantime, I’ll have to satisfy my curriculum-hunting instincts by delving into some preschool pinterest boards.

 

Facing Our ADHD Challenges

ADHD challenges in homeschool, parenting, and family life

All of life is a journey, with a thousand twists and turns and detours and unscheduled maintenance stops. And while some families may have a journey that looks like a road trip across Texas or Ohio (think miles of nothingness), ours feels more like a roller coaster. And just when I feel like it’s time to unbuckle and get off, it lurches forward again.

In our latest hair-raising episodes, we’ve encountered the full impact of an ADHD diagnosis. Without names, just think multiple family members, and you’ll start to get an idea of how life-altering this has been. It’s been a nightmare and a relief at the same time. A nightmare to realize the challenges that lie ahead, and a relief to understand that there are solutions to our difficulties.

I know this is a highly charged and controversial diagnosis, and I’m not about to debate any of that here. For a fantastic overview of what it is and how it can affect a family, visit BenandMe.com’s blog series on ADHD. It’s amazing, and has been a tremendous (not to mention, timely) encouragement.

Needless to say, this has meant some huge changes in our family-life, parenting style, and homeschool. And it’s meant that I’ve lightened up on some of my extremely idealistic expectations to provide a little relief for us all. Here’s a sneak-peak at the ADHD challenges we’ve faced off so far.

The ADHD Challenges of Homeschool & Routine

Homeschooling ADHD | hands-on ideas for out-of-the-box learnersIf you know anything about ADHD, then you’ll understand how crucial structure and routine are. But I needed a routine that was, on one hand, structured but, on the other hand, capable of flexing with our high demands. The solution…drum roll…

Mornings are reserved for exploration and activity; discipline subjects (think phonics, spelling, math) come after lunch.

So after our chores, our mornings include things like a nature walk, a read-aloud and art project, music lessons, or Latin videos (Song School Latin). I don’t “schedule” these activities (other than our Tapestry of Grace history lessons). Instead, I suggest the next thing on the list during the next opportunity we have. If chores take too long, we miss the extras. But if the kids have been diligent and we have time, I look at what’s next to offer up. If it’s a pretty day, I suggest a nature walk. If I’m having trouble with my Littlest, then I suggest a Kinderbach lesson or the Latin video.

After lunch, we have a rigid system that pretty much never changes. It’s time for discipline. Oldest does his Reflex Math, copywork, mapwork, and some reading while Middlest does math and reading with me. (Littlest is fed and happy and pretty content to explore on his own during this time of day.) Then, we switch it up. Middlest does Reflex and plays with Littlest while Oldest does language and math with me.

It takes us roughly two hours. And I’m done by 3. Which means all the kids go to quiet time and leave me in as close to absolute silence as we can possibly acquire. I’ve insisted: mommy needs quiet time or mommy becomes a momster. And after proving that out a few times, they’ve pretty much gotten the idea.

The ADHD Challenges of Evenings & Dinner Prep

Evenings are our “witching hour” in every sense that the parent books warn about. My children never outgrew this. It’s absolute chaos. Plus, it’s time to make dinner. Which means that inevitably, my husband walks into a storm.

Here’s where I’ve relaxed my ideal. I have allowed a daily cartoon time while I make supper (horror of horrors!) They watch cartoons until I have supper prepared, and my husband can sneak into the house and transition himself to “family time.” My rules are as follows: if you come out of quiet time, you will lose your cartoon time. If you whine or pout when I say time is up, you will lose your next day’s cartoon time. So far, there have been NO infractions. Amazing!

 

The ADHD Challenges of Chores

Chores have been a nightmare. And I’m not Cinderella’s step-mother: most of my children’s “chores” are brushing their teeth, making their bed, cleaning their room type of tasks. But between HIGH-distractibility and extreme emotional melt-downs, chores have been a Twilight Zone.

Until I went searching for a chore app with a reward system. What I needed was a chore system that ran itself and offered rewards for tasks done. If it depended on my husband or myself to resupply the rewards or come up with the cash or whatever, I knew it would fail. I knew our limits.

ChoreMonster has been a dream come true. First, it’s free! (Hallelujah!) Second, the chores, point system, and rewards are all customizable. I enter the chores and equivalent points earned for each child. I enter the rewards and points for purchase. I customize whether or not the chore needs to be approved by me (getting dressed does not but cleaning a room does). And the app literally runs itself.

My kids have their own login to check off the chores they finish. For each chore finished, they get a spin on the monster wheel that will either win them a new cleaning monster to add to their collection or something monster-ish like dirty underwear, a banana peel, an empty soda can, or a jar of farts. They love it!

For rewards, they can earn video game time, a movie night, a bubble bath with no time limit, a candy bar on my next trip to the store, a new lego set, and other items of varying value.

I’ve included good character as “chores,” if they show responsibility, a servant-spirit, a great effort during a difficult situation, or excellence in school (attitude and focus), they earn points as well.

It’s been a huge success! And a huge relief.

Logic of English Foundations | hands-on phonics for dyslexia, ADHDWe still have a lot of changes to make and a lot more challenges to face. But just to catch my breath from the chaos has been such a blessing. And knowing what it is I’m up against has been the greatest blessing of all.

**UPDATE: Find out more about how we are facing our ADHD challenges in these posts:

Everyday Challenges of ADHD

Taking on ADHD Diet and food eliminations

Homeschooling a child with ADHD

Using Literature-rich curriculum with dyslexic and ADHD kids